Covid Cases Skyrocket In LA County: Los Angeles County on Monday reported more than 31,500 new coronavirus cases — marking a nearly tenfold increase from a month ago. Officials announced 31,576 new cases Monday, compared with 3,360 new cases on Dec. 17. And Monday’s figures, officials cautioned, might be undercounts because of reporting delays over the holiday. Read more from the Los Angeles Times.

Oakland Students Threaten Walkout Today: More than 1,200 Oakland students have signed a petition pledging to skip classes this week starting Tuesday, organizers said. Sophomore Ayleen Serrano said the district is responding to demands for N95 and KN95 masks and more outdoor dining space, but that insufficient testing is the students’ biggest concern. Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle and Bay Area News Group.

Below, check out the roundup of California Healthline’s coverage. For today’s national health news, read KHN’s Morning Briefing.

Amid Low COVID Vaccine Rates, More California Children Hospitalized In Omicron Surge 

COVID-19 hospitalizations among California’s children — especially those too young to go to school — are the highest they have been since the pandemic began. Chalk it up to the highly contagious omicron variant, kids exposed during in-person instruction at school and other public places, and infants and preschoolers being ineligible for vaccination. The state has tallied nearly 850,000 cases of COVID among kids 0 to 17 since the beginning of the pandemic. Of those, 44 have died — equivalent to an entire school bus filled with kids. (Aguilera, 1/17)

Los Angeles Times:
Like ‘Tetris’: COVID Surge Turns Staff Scheduling At California Hospital Into A Frustrating Numbers Game 

The 28 patients had camped out for hours and even days in the emergency room of Arrowhead Regional Medical Center. With more than 100 COVID-19-positive patients in the hospital, there weren’t enough in-patient beds to put them in. In the fourth-floor intensive care unit, tired nurses tended to three COVID patients at a time instead of their normal two. Five nurses were out sick and those tasked with scheduling staff likened it to a game of “Tetris,” fitting in people wherever they could. (Mejia, 1/18)

Los Angeles Daily News:
LA County Hospital Beds Continue To Fill, Topping 4,500 Patients, As Omicron’s Toll Widens 

Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 rose on Monday, Jan. 17 to a mark not seen since early February, as the omicron variant of the coronavirus continued its relentless toll on the population. And with the rise, so came more staggering daily case totals and continued strain on weary medical staffs as the county remained clearly in the thick of the latest winter surge. Those staffs, too, much like many in the population, are bracing for a world in which coronavirus could be here to stay. (Carter, 1/17)

Sacramento Bee:
Sacramento County Sets COVID Hospital Record Amid Omicron 

Sacramento County broke an all-time record for coronavirus hospitalizations over the weekend, reporting nearly 550 COVID-positive patients in hospital beds. The county had 533 confirmed COVID-19 cases in hospitals Saturday and 547 on Sunday, according to data updated Monday by the California Department of Public Health. Each exceeded the previous record of 518 patients, reached at the peak of the winter 2020 surge. (McGough, 1/17)

The (Santa Rosa) Press Democrat:
Latest Sonoma County COVID Deaths Involved Underlying Health Conditions

Three Sonoma County men who died from COVID-19 over the past two weeks had underlying health conditions, the county confirmed Monday. The men, who were all above the age of 80, bring the total number of Sonoma County deaths to 426 since the pandemic began in 2020. Their deaths were previously reported by the county but limited specifics about each individual weren’t released until Monday. (Atagi, 1/17)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Omicron May Have Peaked In Parts Of The Bay Area As California COVID Surge Slows

For the first time in a month, average daily coronavirus cases have dipped week over week across the Bay Area, suggesting that much of the region may be near — or possibly past — the peak of the winter omicron surge. Monday’s case reports from the California Department of Public Health — including total cases from Friday to Sunday — drove the seven-day average down about 4% for the Bay Area compared with Jan. 9. Statewide, average daily cases were up 6% week over week, but that was a far less striking uptick than the doubling or tripling reported in previous weeks. (Allday, 1/17)

The Washington Post:
Don’t Count On Omicron Ending The Pandemic, Fauci Says

Top U.S. health officials are urging caution amid reports of coronavirus cases peaking in some areas and speculation that the omicron variant could be a pandemic killer. “It is an open question whether it will be the live virus vaccination that everyone is hoping for,” Anthony S. Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, said Monday during a virtual panel at the Davos Agenda. (Jeong, 1/18)

Bay Area News Group:
California Throws More Money At COVID-19 Contact Tracing, But Is It Too Late?

(Photo by iStock/Getty Images) Intensive contact tracing has helped contain COVID-19 outbreaks in some Asian countries. People test positive, they quarantine, and the folks they’ve had contact with are tracked down and asked to — or, in some nations, forced to — quarantine as well. The U.S. has spent billions on contact tracing, and California alone will have spent $300 million on it through the next fiscal year. But researchers have found that 2 of 3 people with confirmed COVID-19 in the U.S. were either not reached or wouldn’t name contacts when interviewed, and public health authorities haven’t been able to monitor enough cases to stem the tide. (Sforza, 1/18)

Los Angeles Times:
COVID Killed Droves Of Indian Health Workers. Their Families Must Fight For Recompense 

Amanjit Singh’s father, a family doctor, was ordered to reopen his clinic as early cases of COVID-19 were spreading in Mumbai. Within days, his father — gasping for oxygen at home — was dead. Two days later, so was his mother. Left to fend for himself, the 17-year-old Singh set out to collect the compensation the government promised family members of health workers killed by COVID-19. For nine months, he had to navigate the depths of Indian bureaucracy — sidestepping lockdowns, winning police approval to visit government offices and the hospital — to obtain his father’s death certificate proving he fell victim to the coronavirus. (Torgalkar and Pierson, 1/17)

Los Angeles Times:
A Father’s Death, Son’s Despair: How COVID Upended A Family 

The pandemic, which has seemed to drag on for a lifetime, has worsened a mental health crisis for youths across the country. In a public health advisory issued last month, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy wrote that “the pandemic era’s unfathomable number of deaths, pervasive sense of fear, economic instability, and forced physical distancing from loved ones, friends, and communities have exacerbated the unprecedented stresses young people already faced.” (Mejia, 1/16)

Fourth Vaccine Dose Likely Not Enough To Prevent Omicron Breakthrough Infections 

Early data out of Israel suggests that a fourth dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna coronavirus vaccine can bring an increase in antibodies — more than what’s been seen after a third dose — but it still might not be enough to protect against breakthrough infections caused by the Omicron variant. “These are very preliminary results. This is before any publication, but we’re giving it out since we understand the urgency of the public to get any information possible about the fourth dose,” Dr. Gili Regev-Yochay, director of the Infection Prevention and Control Unit at Sheba Medical Center, told reporters during a virtual news conference Monday about the data. (Howard, 1/18)

Bay Area News Group:
Kaiser Gave Walnut Creek Patients Low COVID-19 Vaccine Doses

Kaiser Permanente has notified 3,900 patients vaccinated with at its Walnut Creek Medical Center last fall they may have received less than a full dose of the Pfizer shot. Kaiser is sending notices this month offering those who received the light shots appointments for a “repeat” dose if they want one. But the HMO said that after consulting with experts and reviewing guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the dosing error should not significantly reduce immunity. (Woolfolk, 1/17)

Modesto Bee:
Stanislaus State Will Start Online As COVID Cases Spread 

California State University, Stanislaus, will begin the first two weeks of its spring semester remotely. Classes will be online until Feb. 14 because of a surge in Covid-19 cases on campus and in the region, according to an announcement on the school’s website last week. Indoor events through Feb. 14 will be postponed or moved outdoors. Local public health officials and the university’s COVID-19 response team recommended the move. (Isaacman, 1/17)

Sacramento Bee:
Omicron COVID Variant Hits Sacramento School Districts

Sacramento-area school districts are being hit hard by a wave of omicron cases. The Sacramento City Unified School District has 1,366 positive cases and 10,041 students in quarantine, according to its dashboard. The district is hiring substitute teachers to fill gaps left by sick or exposed staff. (Sullivan, 1/17)

Stressed-Out Parents Divided Over Going Back To School Amid Surge 

Just when it seemed like a little normalcy might be returning to the lives of beleaguered California families at long last, the deep-seated angst and confusion that comes with parenting amid a pandemic has returned. As the highly contagious omicron variant sweeps through the state and a new wave of schools shut down due to outbreaks and staff shortages, many parents are feeling conflicted about sending their children back to school after winter break. The timing coincides with what may be the peak of the latest surge, as the infection count climbs and test kits and child-size masks are hard to come by, all of which puts more strain on frazzled parents. (D’Souza, 1/18)

Sacramento Bee:
Should I Keep My Kid Home From Sacramento School During COVID?

More young children are being admitted with illnesses related to COVID-19 during the omicron surge, Dr. Dean Blumberg, UC Davis Children’s Hospital chief of pediatrics infectious diseases, told The Bee. “Before we were seeing hospitalizations in mostly teenagers … this time around we’re seeing admissions more in the younger children — especially those less than 5 years of age,” he said. (Taylor, 1/18)

Sacramento Bee:
California Forcibly Sterilized People For 70 Years. Survivors Can Now Get Compensation

For 70 years, forced sterilizations were routinely performed in California’s state-run hospitals, homes and institutions on tens of thousands of individuals like Franco, who were deemed “feeble-minded,” “sexually deviant” or “undesirable.” … The state’s eugenics law was repealed in 1979 and decades later, California is aiming to rectify its troubled past by compensating remaining survivors who were involuntarily sterilized. As of Jan. 1, survivors are now eligible to apply for financial reparations as part of a $7.5 million state program. The state estimates that about 600 survivors of forced sterilization are still alive today and eligible for compensation. (Lopez, 1/16)

Los Angeles Times:
California Freezes ‘Suspicious’ Disability Insurance Claims 

In the latest battle between California and scammers out to defraud its benefits system, the state said it froze 345,000 disability insurance claims that it suspects were fraudulently filed using stolen credentials of doctors and other medical providers. The new scam could further strain California’s troubled Employment Development Department, which struggled to deliver timely benefits to jobless workers during the pandemic and paid out some $20 billion to criminals under false unemployment claims. (Luna, 1/17)

New Study Shows Imperial Beach Ocean Pollution Worse Than Previously Thought 

The current north swell is bringing big waves to San Diego and Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina has been taking full advantage. “Every surfer on the coast knows we’ve had one of the most epic swells in a year,” he said. “Just perfect surf everywhere.” Dedina has recently surfed in Ensenada, La Jolla and Sunset Cliffs. But not Imperial Beach. In fact, cross-border water pollution has kept Dedina away from his hometown surf break for more than two years. “I got so sick,” he said. “I’ve had two ear surgeries, two sinus surgeries, I just can’t afford to get sick anymore.” (Solis, 1/17)

Orange County Register:
County Trying To Staff Hundreds Of Empty Jobs In OC Health Care Agency 

Orange County officials are hiring more recruiters, studying their pay scale and looking to partner with educational institutions such as UC Irvine in an effort to fill hundreds of vacancies in the OC Health Care Agency. But staffing positions in the agency may continue to be a challenge in the next few years, Director Dr. Clayton Chau said, with many agencies looking to fill out their pandemic-depleted rosters and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget including $200 million to improve public health systems across the state. (Robinson, 1/17)

San Gabriel Valley Tribune:
WesternU Provost To Give Team USA A Mental Boost At Beijing Olympics 

As more elite athletes reveal their mental health struggles, it makes Dr. David Baron, sports psychiatrist and provost for Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, very happy. Not because these athletes suffered through dark times, Baron explains, but because they found a way out, received professional help and are lifting the stigma attached to mental health care. “We are starting to turn the corner for the sports world to realize mental health is a critically important component of physical health,” said Baron, who will board a flight Jan. 27 to Beijing to serve as the sports medicine/psychiatrist for Team USA at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. (Scauzillo, 1/17)

Modesto Bee:
Omicron: Organizers Seek To Delay Modesto-Area Homeless Count

The organizers of the annual count of homeless people throughout Stanislaus County want to delay this year’s tally by about a month because of the omicron coronavirus variant. Stanislaus Community System of Care members voted at a Thursday meeting to seek permission from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to move what is called the point-in-time count from Jan. 26-27 to Feb. 23-24. (Valine, 1/17)


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